ISLAMABAD: India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal was summoned to the Foreign Office on Friday to receive protest over a Gulf of Aden incident involving an Indian warship.
“A protest was lodged with the Indian government through the Indian High Commission in Islamabad on a serious incident on June 16, 2011, in which Indian Navy Ship Godavari not only hampered humanitarian operations being carried out by Pakistan Navy Ship Babur for Merchant Vessel Suez but also undertook dangerous manoeuvres, which resulted in the brushing of the sides of INS Godavari and PNS Babur,” a statement issued by the Foreign Office said.
The incident and the subsequent summoning of the high commissioner, diplomatic observers fear, may adversely affect the atmosphere ahead of the June 23-24 foreign secretaries’ meeting in Islamabad.
The incident happened as PNS Babur was escorting Egyptian vessel MV Suez after it had been threatened again by Somali pirates. The ship had been freed from the pirates on June 13 after a payment of $2.1 million ransom.
The 22-member crew of the ship, captained by a Pakistani, included six Indians and four Pakistanis.
Indian Navy was to escort the ship to the closest safe port of Salalah in Oman for which it had dispatched a frigate, but reports suggest that INS Godavari did not respond to a distress signal from the Egyptian merchant vessel’s captain, who then sought help from Pakistan navy, which immediately dispatched PNS Babur to escort it to Salalah.
Pakistan is a member of the Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, a five-nation US-led naval coalition patrolling the Gulf of Aden. India is not a member of CTF 151 Indian sailors on board the vessel have accused their (Indian) navy of not coming to the vessel’s rescue.
But India has played down the allegation, saying the INS Godavari was busy escorting two other merchant vessels and had coordinated with other navies for providing cover to MV Suez.
As PNS Babar started escorting MV Suez to safety, India sent a warship.
The demarche handed over to Mr Sabharwal said: “This incident constitutes a serious violation of international regulations pertaining to safe conduct at high seas and of the India-Pakistan Agreement of 1991 on Advance Notice of Military Exercise Manoeuvers and troop movements.”
Indian government has been asked to ensure that such incidents were not repeated.